Not Any Less Professional

I am interning in the healthcare field and I’m 1 of 2 Black women at my facility. I am also the only Black student in a class of 17 White females, and 1 Swedish male. My instructor told us, on the first day of clinical placement at the hospital, to wear our hair back and out of our face. My face fell in disappointment. My signature style was a big, out-there twist-out. Maybe a few Bantu knots in the front to shake things up. But I detested wearing my hair tamed down because, my hair didn’t like to be tamed down!

The other girls came to the facility in sleek ponytails, sensible buns and one in a cute Dutch braid pinned up against the back of her head. I came with a Crown Twist but I had grappled that morning with the idea I should straighten my hair and wear it in a bun to be taken more seriously and professionally by the legion of doctors, physiotherapists, nurses and patient’s families that I would see every day–and the patient’s themselves. I struggled to feel competent in the sea of blonde ponytails and chignons. I know this is not just my struggle.

Many Black women contend with the idea of proudly showcasing their natural Afro hair, but also the understandable desire to be taken seriously in their profession. How you look matters. I have a Black female acquaintance working for a prestigious Canadian business who has shiny, straight long black weave. She always slays in power suits and red lipstick, and I sometimes wonder if she would have that high-powered job without the weave? On the other hand, I have an acquaintance who is a Black female doctor in California who wears her Afro proudly, or twists, and dons African earrings and is extremely intelligent and influential. She did not let herself become defined by European standards of beauty, in fact, she was hellbent on addressing racism and sexism and calling it out for what it is.

I’m not going to straighten my kinks to be taken more seriously. My intelligence stems from my brain, not my scalp. When eyes roll or nurses pretend to ignore me, I will speak up. They’ll learn I’m a force to be reckoned with. Afro hair and all. Let’s not get into the professional world and then take a turn down European lane, ladies. Up here, it’s even more important to stand our ground and shape our Black identities. PROHAIR

POW!ders

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Thank goodness there is an endless resource of natural products to use in our beautiful, thick Afro hair. And who knows what waits to be discovered next?

Well, today, I’m here to discuss adding powders as a hair mask. You can make a paste using yogurt, goat or coconut milk, or even plain water (oils like coconut oil work well too). You can make it as thick or as thin as you prefer.

So what powders are beneficial for African hair?
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TURMERIC

Turmeric is a cheap powder you can find easily and is a great anti-bacterial, dandruff-fighting powder thanks to its high levels of curcumin. This orangey-yellow powder promotes hair growth by counteracting hair loss. It’s also staining so find a way to protect your vanity while applying it in front of your mirror and wipe any that falls immediately! The results will be worth it.

GINGER

You can use ginger powder in a hair mask! It’s a powerful spice that can promote hair growth, reduce hair loss and makes your hair soft and shiny. Thrown in a tablespoon or two to your regular hair mask for great-smelling action.

TRIPHALA

Triphala powder is a bit more expensive. I found some at the health food store for $7.99 but it smells earthy and lovely, and prevents hair loss. It is also full of nutrients and contains three ingredients: amalaki (amla), haritaki and bibhitaki. Amla is a very nourishing Ayurvedic herb and can be purchased separately. It’s usually a pale green and has a similar aroma to that of Triphala. Amla is known as the “superfood for hair”. It is known to add thickness and shine to hair, and has a high concentration of amino acids and antioxidants including quercetin and gallic acid and contains about 17x more antioxidant power than pomegranate. It’s worth a try! (Side note: I notice amla loosens my curls. Great to try before a Wash ‘n’ Go!)

CINNAMON POWDER

Mixing cinnamon and honey is a well known hair remedy for hair growth as its meant to stimulate the scalp. To make the mask easier to apply, add olive oil.

ALL SPICE POWDER

This is the powder of the Pimento Officinalis tree berries. It is antiseptic and promotes hair growth. All spice will open up your blocked pores in the scalp to help oil get through. Using this before a hot oil treatment is beneficial. Using all spice will also remove bacteria from your scalp and hair. It also smells wonderful with the aroma of cinnamon, cloves and juniper.

BRAHMI POWDER

Another nourishing Ayurvedic hair powder that can be used with other great hair powders like Neem, Amla or Tulsi.

Hair SOS

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Sometimes, we have everything we need for our hair to thrive, and then some. We like to go all out and splurge on a new TGIN co-wash or some emu essential oil to add to our repertoire of hair products. Then, other times, and what this post is focusing on–times are HARD. Trust me, I know. I’ve put some questionable things in my hair, which has given me the insight to write this post. Sometimes you just don’t have a fancy nice butter with sumptuous ylang-ylang and a decadent acai berry scent to coat your thirsty strands! Well, damn, don’t worry cuz I got you! I’ve found some things that are next to nothing cheap you can keep in your hair pantry for those days. HAIRSOS.jpg

1. Coconut Milk This can cost anywhere between $0.79 on sale to like $1.99 if you need to get bougie. Buy a couple cans and keep it in your pantry. I have thick hair to my shoulders (okay, if I boost and really stretch it) and a half can is one wash. The reason why this stuff is amazing is because it will lightly cleanse, moisturize and soften your hair and leave it shiny. Best used as a deep conditioner or in conjuction with a bit of condish you may have scraping at the bottom of your conditioner bottle. Put it together and voila…you’ve got a concoction that’s equal to the stuff in a $15 bottle! Thank me later!

2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil If you are running low on many other items, heat this stuff up and rub it in your scalp and through your ends before you do a co-wash or a regular shampoo. Leave it in for 15 minutes and rinse. This will keep you going until you replenish your regular oils that are more costly like Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, jojoba oil or Jamaican castor oil, or Shea butter. Or what have you. Different strokes for different folks. But EVOO works in a pinch. Add it to the last remainders of your hair butters for a bit of longevity! (Also works for body creams and moisturizes excellently).

3. Apple Cider Vinegar Buy a bottle for $3 and keep it for those days you need to clean a dirty scalp or rid yourself of all that edge gel you got going on. I don’t buy shampoo that often because I don’t wash my hair with it unless I have tons of non-natural products in it like hairspray and gels. But ACV comes through, it’s cheap and you don’t need a lot. Just watch out for the sting in the eye. Gets me every time. Use this when you run out of your regular curly girl shampoo and aren’t about to go buy another $15 bottle for a week or two.

4. Black Soap This Ghana staple will cleanse your scalp gently and a bar of it costs $2-$4 and a container of liquid black soap is about $2.99. It’s all-natural and you probably have some on deck to wash your face with. Black soap is made from Shea, honey, oils, ash and other nutrient-packed content and if you aren’t already using it to wash your hair, well now you know somethign that will keep your hair clean! Shoot, you just may never go back to regular shampoo again!

5. Eggs or Mayonaise If you have nothing else, it’s uninspiring but mix this with that desperate bit of EVOO you have left and you have a great deep conditioner. Bonus if you have a banana or avocado to add to this.

6. Cheap condish – I like to use natural, Black-owned hair products and the prices of these are sometimes double that of conventional hair products aimed at Europeans, if not triple. Most of the time I can afford them but sometimes, my hydro bill rockets or there’s a dope jacket on sale and for those times, I keep a cheap $5-$7 bottle of conditioner on hand like Live Free or JASON. When I have them, I add a few drops of essential oils to ramp up the effects and leave it there in the back of my vanity cupboard. When I get desperate and start rummaging for cheap condish, knowing I’ve run out of my regular stuff, I find Old Faithful.

7.Tea bags Most people have tea on hand. If you don’t, you’re probably not the greatest hostess. Use whatever you got on hand–every tea is beneficial to some degree or another and right now we are not being picky, now are we? You can use chamomile, green, black, nettle, ginger (even using the root and boiling it), Hibiscus, rosemary (just boil some of the herbs, and you can also do this with thyme) and peppermint is particularly good for oily scalp as it controls sebum.

I’m sure if you rummage through your kitchen, your pantry and your beauty cabinets you will find a few items to hold you over until the next time you can run into the hair shop and come out with every new hair cream. Just don’t forget to stock up on that coconut milk first!

If I Had One Wish…

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my hair march 21  My curls today were poppin’, the humidity is my best friend when I have flax seed and aloe vera gel on board.

Lately, I’ve been paying attention to the news. I guess we all have since Trump was inaugurated. I’ve watched the world slowly deteriorate and turn into some violent dystopic nightmare. But no place in the world is it worse than Africa, our Motherland. Mother Africa always suffers the most, it seems, by default. I’m not even sure which issue in Africa is the most pertinent because all those starving, suffering Black faces look the same to me. From the desperate West African migrants getting raped and tortured in Libya, to the starving babies in South Sudan and Ethiopia. I thought those African starving babies on the TV days  were done…but now it seems that people flicker their eyes in pity and move on with their lives. I don’t know if it’s the famine, or the shortage of food or the militia or the criminals running the cities across Mali and the Gambia. All I know is Mother Africa has suffered enough, my people have suffered enough.

If I had one wish, it would be for stability, prosperity, health and happiness in Mother Africa. I wish we could rescue all of those children and bring them here to where we throw out food and complain of food babies at buffets.

If I had one wish…

Say hi

I love how women of other cultures talk and bond so easily, even if they don’t know each other.  I have such a strong yearning to get to know my Black sisters. Sometimes my smile is reciprocated,  sometimes I get blank states. I usually say hello, sometimes they just walk by me like I’m a ghost.

We have been rewired to hate each other, distrust each other and be suspicious of each other instead of upholding our sisters and being welcoming, supportive and kind. I do feel intimidated by approaching some Black sisters. Maybe others feel intimidated by approaching me.

But we need to swallow our pride and get the healing ball rolling. We need to start by saying hi. We need to introduce ourselves,  offer (genuine)  compliments and seek out our sisters. I’m not saying don’t have white, Asian, Latino, Arab friends. But you should hold your African sisters in the highest esteem,  treating her like the queen she is…because she is a reflection of you.

Essentially You

Essential oils are definitely an investment, given the price tag for some of those decadent little jars but oils are a luxury. Pampering ourselves with these precious oils is something we should carve time out for and enjoy! We deserve it!

I’ve always wanted to try essential oils but was deterred by their price but I decided to delve into it this past winter when my hair was in a desperate situation for a hot oil treatment. I added rosemary oil to the mix and it made a big difference mixed with jojoba. My favourite aspect of essential oils is the natural fragrance. It’s like hair therapy!

If you vie for the super glossy curls that are popping up all over the Gram, then chamomile oil would be a great addition for high sheen and lustrous looking hair. A little goes a long way and adding a few drops to your conditioners or butters, or rubbing it throughout your hair before you leave the house gets the job done.

I always go overboard with peppermint oil and my head smells like mint for days. Some people love it, I think it’s ‘meh’ but it’s worth a try to stimulate blood flow to your scalp!

Bay oil is also really great and when used with sage and lavender, smells amazing. All three are very healing for the scalp and promote hair growth. Bay oil is something I grew up with because it comes from my island Dominica so my grandmother cooks with bay leaves, rubs bay rum on my stomach when I’m sick and uses the antiseptic oil for cleaning.

So you get big bang for your buck with essential oils because you can use them for a myriad of things. I put a few drops in cleaning supplies, shampoos and conditioners, body lotions and Shea butter, in a carrier oil like jojoba or olive oil, in a diffuser after cooking curry! You can also use it for massage and pain. Please add other essential oils you like, I know there’s quite a few out there!

 

 

 

 

My Hair, My Rules

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My grandmother is oldschool. She was born in the 1930s and has a mock heart attack every time I come over for some bakes and caloloo. She is quick to wag a finger at my free, flying spirally hair and give me a lecture that I must “contain my unruly hair” and “look presentable. You’re a professional now”.

I always smile politely and nod. There is no convincing Gran my natural hair makes me happy, especially when it’s free from any confines. Haven’t we been confined enough? Confined to hot irons and weaves stifling all this beautiful, luscious hair? I know Gran grew up in a different era and finds natural hair that isn’t shiny and sleekly held back in place by gel very sloppy and unkempt.

I wish she knew that when the wind blows through my curls, I feel so alive and free. When the sun warms on my head, I can smell the release of the rosemary and jojoba oils I had lovingly caressed into my scalp that morning. When I catch a glimpse of myself in a car window or a lobby mirror, I see my boundless, exuberant hair amplifying my boundless, exuberant smile. My hair is a reflection of me. It is natural, defiant, soft, strong, willful, fun and unapologetically, undeniably African. Yes, for work I do wear my hair up as creatively as I can (I work in a hospital and I wouldn’t want to drag home specks of flying blood and God knows what else in my hair anyway!) but when I’m done, I shake it free and go on my merry way. I am not defined by my hair. It’s my hair and my rules, and I choose to be empowered by it’s essence of freedom. animated

 

Is Natural Hair Still a “Trend”?

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In December, Vibe predicted natural hair would be a big trend in 2017. Which doesn’t really make sense. It’s our hair. That would mean being ourselves may not be as cool or avant-garde in 2018 or 2019? It would be helpful if they delved a little deeper and reported some cool new cuts or styles for natural hair that will be on point in 2017. I’m sure when a magazine talking about white women’s hair discusses new trends they don’t just say “European hair a trend this year!” Our collective hair journeys are not about running from bell bottom jeans to skinny jeans to high waisted jeans. It is about jumping from repression, from the devaluation of Black femininity to shaping our identity as modern Black women and embracing our own roots.

So is natural hair still a trend in 2017? If it is, good, because maybe once more women with Afro hair get on the bandwagon they will realize that they had something beautiful and unique all along–and they can flaunt it 24/7 and 365! Except…maybe on wash day. 😉